Wise (formerly TransferWise) Canada Review: Send and Receive Money at a Low Cost

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by Enoch Omololu

Updated

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If you send money abroad often or even once in a while, then you must have experienced the pain that comes with shelling out high bank transfer fees. This is in addition to the highly skewed exchange rates that include all kinds of hidden fees and are never in your favour.

In my bid to minimize the fees I paid when transferring money abroad, I came across Wise, formerlyTransferWise, an international money transfer service.

Wise has a unique system for moving money across borders that makes their service significantly cheaper and faster for most transfers…up to 8 times cheaper than your bank!

Even if you are not sending money to someone abroad, Wise makes it easier for you to access money when you are abroad. You pay a small fee and enjoy the much better mid-market rate of exchange. The same advantage exists for freelancers who receive payments in foreign currency.

This Wise (formerly TransferWise) review covers how the service works, fees, and how they compare to their competition including PayPal (Xoom), Western Union, Money Gram, Revolut, World Remit, Remitly, and others.

TransferWise Review Canada

What is Wise (formerly TransferWise)?

TransferWise is now Wise. Because they help people with much more than just transfers. They offer the international account used by over 10 million people to live, work, travel, and do business around the world.

Wise is a financial technology company that was launched in 2011 by Kristo Kaarmann and Taavet Hinrikus. The company is based in London and has offices in other parts of the globe.

Wise currently services millions of customers who transfer up to $6 billion every month and it is backed by well-known investors including Richard Branson, Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, Index Ventures, David Yu, and many others.

How Does Wise (TransferWise) Work?

Wise helps you to send money, receive money, and spend money internationally (to over 70 countries) at a low cost. 

Typically, when you are sending money abroad, it involves middlemen (banks) who markup the spot exchange rate (aka interbank rate or mid-market rate) and add other hidden fees, costing you lots more in total charges.

With Wise, you pay a small upfront fee and they exchange the currencies at the mid-market rate which you can easily confirm online using Google, Yahoo, or Xe.com.

The mid-market rate is as close to a competitive rate as you can get at any given time and is what the banks use when conducting transactions with each other.

The bottom line is that with the transparent fee charged by Wise and real exchange rate conversion (which can also be guaranteed for a time period), you get the most bang for your money and enjoy significant savings.

Wise can afford to make things cheaper because of its innovative approach to keeping currencies local so they do not have to cross the border. This is how it works:

Let’s say you want to send $1,000 CAD to someone in the United States. Instead of transferring that money across the Canadian/U.S. border, Wise adds your CAD currency to their account in Canada and pays your intended recipient in the U.S. from their USD account located in the United States. 

If someone else wants to do the reverse transaction i.e. pay a recipient in Canada, they pay using Wise funds already present in their Canadian bank accounts and keep the USD in their U.S. accounts.

This strategy removes the need to transfer money across borders (transfers remain local) and thus cuts the transfer costs.

  1. In order to use their services, you need to create an account. This process takes only a minute or so. After opening your account, you can initiate your transfer.
  2. Enter your basic details and the information of the person who is receiving the money and their bank details. The recipient does not need to have a Wise account and can also be a business or charity.
  3. Verify your identity by uploading the required ID and proof of address. The verification process may take up to 2 days so you should complete this step before you plan to send funds.
  4. Fund your transfer using various methods including bank transfer, debit card, credit card, online bill transfer, SWIFT, wire transfer, SOFORT (Europe), etc.

When sending money from Canada, it takes 1-3 working days for your funds to reach Wise depending on your method of payment. Some transfer limits to be aware of are:

  • Direct debit CAD transfers: $9,500 CAD per 24 hours and a bi-weekly limit of $30,000
  • Credit and debit cards: $3,000 CAD per transfer
  • Local wire transfer: $1.5 million CAD per transfer

Banks that support automatic debit from your account to Wise in Canada include:

TransferWise Supported Canadian Banks - Direct Debit

Wise (TransferWise) Fees

The fees you pay when sending money on Wise depends on – 

The amount you are sending: A percentage is charged on the amount and it varies from currency to currency (usually 1% or less).

How you pay for your transfer: Direct debits cost less than when you pay with a credit card. The means of payment may limit the maximum amount you can send per transaction.

Exchange rate: The rate you receive is the mid-market rate which has no markup or hidden fees (same as the rate you see on Google). Depending on the currency, the rate may also be guaranteed for up to 48 hours.

As an example on fees, supposing I want to send $1,000 CAD to a friend in Australia (the currency of recipient is AUD), the following fees apply using a direct debit (cheapest option for CAD transfers).

Total fees = $9.95 CAD (~1%)

*Note that the exchange rate (1.07007) is guaranteed for 48 hours and is the same best rate I would find on Google or xe.com. 

If I decided to pay for my transfer using other options, the following fees apply on Wise for the same $1,000 CAD amount:

  • Debit card: $20.09 CAD fee
  • Credit card: $26.29 CAD fee
  • Domestic wire transfer: $5.50 CAD fee
  • Online bill payment: $5.50 CAD fee

These fees are in addition to Wise’s basic fee of $6.22 CAD. For CAD transfers, direct debit is your best bet for the most savings!

Compared to other money transfer services and based on the same amount of money, I would be paying (as of this initial writing on May 28, 2019):

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC): Approximately $66 at an exchange rate of 1.0384 which is almost 3% worse than the mid-market rate.

PayPal: Approximately $42 at an exchange rate of 1.0303 which is almost 4% worse than the mid-market rate and includes PayPal’s currency conversion fee and the additional $4.99 CAD transfer fee.

As is obvious, Wise is the cheapest option in this scenario because they use the more accurate, fair, and favourable exchange rate that does not include any hidden fees.

Currencies you can send and receive through Wise

AUD – Australian DollarJPY – Japanese YenIDR – Indonesian Rupiah
BGN – Bulgarian LevHUF – Hungarian ForintINR – Indian Rupee 
BRL – Brazilian RealHRK – Croatian KunaMYR – Malaysian Ringgit 
CAD – Canadian DollarNOK – Norwegian Krone
CHF – Swiss FrancNZD – New Zealand Dollar
CZK – Czech KorunaPLN – Polish Złoty
DKK – Danish KroneRON – Romanian Leu
EUR – EuroTRY – Turkish Lira
GBP – Pounds SterlingSEK – Swedish Krona
HKD – Hong Kong DollarSGD – Singapore Dollar
USD – US DollarAED – Emirati Dirham

Currencies that Wise can only send to local bank accounts

CRC – Costa Rica Colón GHS – Ghana Cedi PKR – Pakistani Rupee
ARS – Argentine PesoKES – Kenyan ShillingsRUB – Russian Ruble
BDT – Bangladeshi TakaKRW – South Korean WonTHB – Thai Baht
CLP – Chilean PesoLKR – Sri Lankan RupeeUAH – Ukrainian Hryvna
CNY – Chinese YuanMAD – Moroccan DirhamVND – Vietnamese Dong
COP – Colombian PesoMXN – Mexican PesoXOF – West African CFA franc
EGP – Egyptian PoundUYU – Uruguayan PesosZAR – South African Rand 
GEL – Georgian LariNGN – Nigerian NairaZMW – Zambian kwacha
NPR – Nepalese RupeePEN – Peruvian Sol
ILS – Israeli ShekelsPHP – Philippine Peso

How to contact Wise?

You can reach their support team via email, phone (1-888-445-2780 for Canada), or in-app chat.

Sign Up for a Wise Account here

Wise Multi-Currency Account

Wise offers a multi-currency account that makes it easy to receive and send payments in different currencies at the real exchange rate and without fees or a minimum balance.

It was previously known as the TransferWise Borderless Account.

This account is a great option if you are a freelancer or have a business that does transactions with other businesses located internationally. When you open a Wise multi-currency account, you get their free:

  • US account number and routing number
  • British account number and sort code
  • European IBAN
  • Australian account number and BSB code
  • New Zealand account number
  • Canadian account number
  • Turkish Lira account and IBAN
  • Hungarian forint and account number
  • Singapore dollar account

What this means is that you can receive these 9 currencies and several others as though you had a local bank account and simply avoid having to convert your currencies.

And, you can pay out money easily to recipients in more than 70 countries in their own currency.

Wise charges a small upfront fee if you want to convert currencies in your borderless account. The exchange rate also remains the mid-market rate.

I love the borderless account because instead of opening a US Dollar bank account in Canada and individual accounts for other currencies, this account gives you access to multiple foreign accounts that function like local bank accounts even though you reside in Canada.

When you match the borderless account with a Wise debit Mastercard, the fee savings can be enormous.

The Wise debit card is now available in the US, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and most of the Eurozone.

If you have an address in any of these countries, you will now be able to use your Wise card all around the world and spend in any currency.

The Wise debit card is not yet available to residents of Canada.

Is Wise (formerly TransferWise) Safe and Legit?

Wise is a legitimate company that is regulated by the relevant authorities in the various countries they operate in. For example:

Canada: They are regulated by Authorite des Marches Financiers (AMF) as a money service business. They are also registered with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

United States: Registered with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Their funds are held in banks that are insured under the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

United Kingdom: Authorized as Electronic Money Institution by the UK Financial Conduct Authority.

Australia: They are regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission with AUSTRAC.

India: Approved by the Revenue Bank of India.

Japan: Regulated by the Kanto Local Financial Bureau and licensed as a Funds Transfer Provider.

Wise has a Trust Score of 4.7/5 on Trustpilot.

Wise – Pros and Cons

Some of the benefits of using Wise are:

  • Convenient and cheap transfers abroad without leaving the comfort of your home
  • Transparent upfront fees and a fair competitive mid-market exchange rate
  • No hidden fees
  • Versatile mobile app
  • Excellent customer support
  • A free borderless account with the ability to hold balances in over 40 currencies
  • Great for individuals, freelancers, and businesses

Cons: Some of the complaints posted by users online include:

  • Account deactivation without prior warning
  • Delayed account verification
  • Delayed transfers
  • Limits on amounts that can be transferred
  • Limited support on weekends
  • No cash pickup option

Wise vs. PayPal (Xoom) vs. Revolut vs. World Remit

Wise generally beats PayPal on the fee front because PayPal applies an exchange rate that includes currency conversion fees which can be significant.

The snapshot below from Wise mirrors my personal findings when I compared sending money (CAD to AUD) on both platforms.

TransferWise vs PayPal fees 2

Revolut is a UK-based fintech company offering currency exchange and peer-to-peer payments. I have heard some good things about them and it appears they are launching in Canada soon.

Based on their website, they will offer a service to Canadians that allows you to send money abroad in 150 currencies using the interbank exchange rate and a 0.50% fee (plus a markup on weekends and on certain currencies).

You will also be able to send money abroad in 29 currencies at the mid-market rate at a cost of 0.50% for amounts exceeding $8,000 CAD each month.

It will be interesting to see what their full suite of product offerings will look like when they launch in Canada.

Based on my personal experience with sending money transfers to Nigeria, Wise also generally beats World Remit and Remitly when you factor in the mid-market exchange rate they use.

Wise and EQ Bank

In 2019, EQ Bank partnered with Wise to offer cheap international money transfers to EQ Bank customers. If you have an EQ Bank Savings Plus account, you can now send funds directly in 17 currencies to recipients in 46+ countries using your online account or mobile app.

One advantage of using EQ Bank is that you earn a competitive savings interest rate on any balance you hold in your account.

You can also open an EQ Bank USD account and link it with Wise from your dashboard to make USD payments abroad.

Conclusion

High bank transfer fees and exchange rate markups can significantly eat into the money you are sending abroad. With a service like Wise, you pay lower fees which are apparent upfront. This means more money in your pocket.

Whether you are paying bills, sending money to friends and family, or receiving monies for services rendered, a reliable and cheaper money transfer service will make your life easier.

Open a Wise Account Here.

Wise (formerly TransferWise) Review 2021
4.8

Summary

Wise, formerly TransferWise, is one of the best ways to send money abroad and receive funds for cheap and at the best exchange rate possible. This Wise review covers everything you need to know and how they compare with competitors including PayPal, Revolut, and your bank.

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Author

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Enoch Omololu

Enoch Omololu is a personal finance expert and a veterinarian. He has a master’s degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School (Scotland) and has completed several courses and certificates in finance, including the Canadian Securities Course. He also has an MSc. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Manitoba and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan. Enoch has a passion for helping others win with their personal finances and has been writing about money matters for over a decade. His writing has been featured or quoted in the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, MSN Money, Financial Post, Winnipeg Free Press, CPA Canada, Credit Canada, Wealthsimple, and many other personal finance publications.

His top investment tools include Wealthsimple and Questrade. He earns cash back on purchases using KOHO, monitors his credit score for free using Borrowell, and earns interest on savings through EQ Bank.

15 thoughts on “Wise (formerly TransferWise) Canada Review: Send and Receive Money at a Low Cost”

  1. Hallo Enoch,

    Thank you for the detail description and comparison with similar services.

    What about the comparison with World Remit?

    Reply
  2. I recommend not using Transferwise in Canada. The company uses a bait and switch technique to get your personal details and then cancel your account based on not reading the fine print. I used Transferwise and clicked on the link provided for a business account and Freelancer bank accounts to accept foreign currencies. They know I’m in Canada because when you click on the Debit card, it says not available in Canada yet. I filled out the application only and submitted with my details. Shortly after Transferwise accused me of violating their terms of Use and cancelled my application and my personal account. When I asked for details the company TOU refers to engaging in a “marketplace” which is what freelancing and businesses do. I asked what that definition was and Transferwise said “that is internal to Transferwise”. After I asked for reconsideration, they said I could appeal using the link provided. That link was unusable after they closed my account.

    This was recent in early 2020. Transferwise has some hidden policies and clicking on links provided are not safe if you intend to build your transaction there. This could leave you with balances not retrievable and legal issues at best. I found Transferwise to be intolerant of any appeal process although the people were polite. The fact that you can violate the TOU simply by accepting the offer to apply for an account is very disturbing. It is baiting the consumer to apply and then switching off the account. I give them 9+ for fees but zero for customer service and business acumen.

    If I were a shareholder like Branson, I’d pull out while I can. Other startups with friendly approaches will do far better in the long run. Transferwise is worse than my bank for customer service. Shame on Transferwise for continuing to bait Canadians with those links.

    Reply
    • @Paul:

      The Transferwise debit card is not yet available to residents of Canada even though you can apply for the multi-currency Borderless account.

      As of June 2020, the debit card is available to residents of Switzerland, Singapore, most of the US states, most of the EEA, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. People from these countries can use the card to hold CAD and use it for payments when they are in Canada.

      This is probably why your application did not go through.

      I have used Transferwise for over 3 years and I have personally had no issues.

      Reply
      • Hi Enoch,

        Thanks for the informative review on TransferWise from a Canadian perspective.

        I am deciding between TransferWise, OFX and WorldFirst to fund my Forex trading account in Oceania. Have you ever used the latter two? Seems all three companies have good reviews online with WorldFirst offering the best dollar to dollar outcome.
        However TransferWise and OFX both have offices in Toronto but WorldFirst has no Canadian location which is a negative for me. Your input is appreciated.

        Reply
        • @James,

          This is the first I’m hearing about WorldFirst. I haven’t personally used OFX, but I have heard about them and based on the little I know, it appears they are competitive, but not as straightforward as TransferWise. Cheers!

          Reply
  3. Hello Enoch,

    I am planning on setting up a transferwise USD account for the purpose of saving funds in USD since my local currency has been on a free fall and continues to lose value. Do you think this is a wise idea?
    I am currently based in Nigeria.

    Reply
    • Hi Benjamin: If you typically receive payments in USD, your plan could help to preserve the value of your funds in a way… you can make withdrawals when the exchange rates make sense. However, if your plan is to convert Naira into USD in order to hold USD, the eventual roundtrip conversions will likely eat up any gains over time.

      Reply
  4. Thank you very much for your response, Enoch.

    The plan is actually to save it for my foreign trips since i plan to open an account in Canada and the US during my next trip there.

    Reply
  5. Can I transfer money from my Canadian Bank account and get the cash while I am in Panama? Where do I pick up my money when I am in Panama?

    Reply
  6. Thanks for the detailed review. Is it possible to transfer USD from my USD Savings account in my canadian bank account and pay recipient in CAD in their Canadian bank account. That is USD will be withdrawn from my account and CAD transferred to the recipient

    Reply
  7. Hi Enoch,

    I’m planning to send CAD from a Canadian bank to a USD account in another country (not US). Do you know if it will incur SWIFT fees and intermediary fees with Transferwise?

    Currently I am doing Nobert’s Gambit with a trading account for CAD to USD to get market rates. Then, sending to the bank in a USD account, and from there, wire to destination country. This will incur approximately $15 for the exchange(trading fees), $50 for the outgoing wire, $30 for the SWIFT, and whatever the local bank charges for incoming wire.

    I’m trying to do cost analysis using $10,000 USD as an example.
    Transferwise: $0.95 bill pay + $67 fee + SWIFT? =$68
    Gambit+ Bank: $15 trade fee + $50 wire + SWIFT = $65

    Using this example,
    If transferwise will charge SWIFT, it is cheaper to Gambit+Bank.
    If Transferwise is not charging SWIFT it is cheaper to use Transferwise.

    Under 10,000USD (smaller amounts), it is better to use Transferwise regardless.

    Thanks in advance for your comment.

    Reply
  8. I talked to chat and they sent a link with this info.
    https://wise.com/help/articles/2946451/sending-usd-to-countries-outside-the-us

    “How much it costs
    Wise supports sending USD to people outside of the US, but to do this we need to send your transfer via the SWIFT network.

    Because SWIFT incurs additional costs, we will add a fee of 3.20 USD to your transfer to pay for this. We charge the same fee for payments to Hong Kong through CHATS system.

    Your bank or other banks the money passes through on the way may also charge you a fee, so your recipient might get less. These fees tend to be around 25–50 USD, but there’s no way for us to know what they’ll be in advance.”

    So in summary, if you are sending USD outside the US, it is probably better to use one of the banks “Global money transfer” services for small amounts. Better to use the Gambit+Bank for large amounts (>$10K).
    The same is true if you want to send GBP outside UK, or EUR outside EU.

    I hope this helps someone

    Reply
  9. Hi Enoch,

    You mention in your article that you can transfer your money from a Canadian bank account to transfer wise. My Scotiabank keeps telling me this isn’t possible. Do you know how I can move money from Scotiabank to wise?

    Reply
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